Monday, April 29, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Granville (North Carolina) Proprietary Land Office Records - Entries, Warrants, Surveys

On Friday, I had a day off work so I visited the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh.  I spent several pleasurable hours looking at microfilm and printing out land warrants and plats.  I do not have much experience with these items, so I was happy to find an introduction on the microfilm.  I thought I would share the information here for any others who are not familiar with them.

Introduction to the Granville Entry Papers, Warrants, and Plats of Survey

  The files of loose papers microfilmed herein are supporting documents that were created during the process of granting deeds in the Proprietary Land Office of John Carteret, Earl Granville.

  When a file of papers on this microfilm is complete, the file should include at least one copy each of three documents:  an entry, a warrant, and a plat of survey.

  The entry is the document first executed by the person who wished to purchase vacant land from the Proprietary Land Office.  This document briefly described the vacant land and estimated the acreage of the vacant tract.  The person making the entry in the hope of purchasing the land signed the entry paper.

  The warrant was signed by one of  Lord Granville's agents or by someone connected with the land office who had been authorized by the agent to sign for him.  The warrant repeats the description exactly from the entry paper, and it repeats the estimated acreage shown in the entry paper.  The warrant authorized or warranted the surveyor to make an actual survey of the vacant land and to reduce the survey to a plat.

  The plat of survey is the little map of the vacant land drawn by the surveyor, and it described the land as the surveyor laid it off.  It reported the actual acreage found vacant and surveyed as opposed to the estimated acreage reported in the entry and in the warrant.  The acreage in the plat of survey may differ considerably from the estimated acreage shown in the entry and in the warrant.  Plats of survey were made in three copies.  One copy was attached to the indented deed that was put into the hands of the grantee; one copy of the plat was usually (but not necessarily always) attached to the counterpart of the indented deed to be sent to Lord Granville in London; the third copy of the plat was filed in the Land Office.  This means that if three copies of a plat of survey are left in a file, the grant of deed never ripened and the land was not conveyed to the person for whom the survey was made.

  The usual length of time necessary for a grant of deed to ripen from the entry was twelve months.  Ideally, then, the entry paper and the grant should be dated about a year apart, or less.  The researcher should be aware that this ideal was often not realized.  There are many examples of entry papers and grants of deeds bearing  dates that are twelve years rather than twelve months apart.

  There are several problems in using these records in interpreting data found in them.  The fact that documents are filed together on this microfilm is no guarantee that the documents relate to the same piece of land.

  Multiple entries.  Often there are two or more entries of the same date for the same person for land in the same county.  When the description of the vacant land is vague, or when the estimates of acreage are incorrect, it may prove impossible to determine with precision which entry papers go with which warrants, plats, or grants.

  Formation of new counties.  Sometimes the vacant land is described as being entered in such a county, but before the granting process has been completed a new county is formed with the result that the land is no longer in the original county specified in the entry.

  Assignments.  At each step in the granting process, some interest in the land was obtained by the person paying the fees at each step.  This interest was not a title to the land, but the interest was a saleable commodity that could be transferred or assigned, to the new party.  Thus, an entry may be in the name of one person, the warrant in the name of another, the plat of survey in the name of a third, and the grant of deed to someone different altogether.

If you are still reading this... isn't it great information?!  I just wish I had read it BEFORE I made copies from the microfilm.  Oh well, I'll go back another day. 

So the first warrant I am going to transcribe is a perfect example of one that went through several hands.  The warrant is dated March 20, 1753 and is for 640 acres of land on the Flat River in (what was then) Granville County, North Carolina.  (Interestingly and amazing to me is the fact that the Flat River runs through Durham County, which is where I now live.)  The warrant was issued in the name of John Mills.  The land was surveyed for John Wade, but "being lost," was removed in Mason Pigman's name.  Deed was ultimately issued in the name of Hosea Tapley. 


  JAMES INNES and FRANCIS CORBIN, Esqrs. Agents and Commissioners, of the Right Honourable the Earl GRANVILLE, {? ? ?} Sole Lord and Proprietor of a certain District, Territory, or Parcel of Land, lying in the Province of North-Carolina {?}.

  To M. William Churton, His Lordship's Deputy-Surveyor for the County of Granville,

  YOU are forthwith to admeasure and lay out, unto John Mills, a Tract of Land, containing Six hundred & forty Acres, lying in Granville County, within the said District; Lying on flat River, beginning so as to Include George Vessels Improvements.

  Observing our Instructions, for running out Lands; Three just and fair Plans whereof, certified under your Hand, you are to return to us, within Six Months from the Date hereof:  Which Survey of the above-mentioned Lands, so to be return'd as aforesaid, shall be good and valid for the said John Mills provided he the said John Mills do, within Twelve Months after such Return, take out a Grant of the same Lands, to compleat his Title:  Otherwise this Warrant, and such your Return thereof, shall be void, and of no Force, and the said Lands be deemed vacant and free to be taken up by any other Person that shall apply for the Purpose.  Dated and Signed the 20th Day of March 1758.

  Frn^s Corbin {signature}

Entered in the Office of the
Right Honourable the Earl
Granville, at Granville the
13th Day of Jan: {?}
Anno Dom, 1752

From the outside or back of the warrant:

July the 18th 1753
  the Entry on the Other side being surveyed for Jn Wade being Lost is now removed in Mason Pigman Name Lying on the North fork of Flat River being the place where he now Locate.

Deed May 15/56
Hosea Tapley 

Secretary of State, Granville Proprietary Land Office.  Entries, Warrants, Surveys.  1748-1763, Granville, Ph through Halifax, Jo, Microfilm Call #S.108.276, accessed 04/26/13, North Carolina Archives, Raleigh, NC.
This Hosea Tapley, I believe, is my 5th great grand uncle.


  1. Cool Warrant and good job on the transcript.
    So, how did it get from Mason Pigman to Hosea Tapley?
    By the way, the Signature at the end is Frn^s for Francis =)

    1. Thanks, Ginger!
      While we do not know for sure how it got from Mason Pigman to Hosea Tapley, I think we find a hint in the "Assignments" section of the Introduction memo. There it is explained that at each step in the granting process, some interest in the land is obtained by the person paying the fees at each step. So possibly Mr. Pigman was unable to pay the filing fee for the deed or was no longer interested in the land once the grant of deed ripened and thus Hosea Tapley stepped in. We will probably never know for sure.
      Thanks for the transcription hint for Francis. I couldn't remember to use the ^. :)